A pair of Charleston, West Virginia officers were walking near the police station when they noticed the child in the vehicle.
As they came closer and looked inside, it became clear that the 1-year-old girl was alone in the running, unlocked car in the parking garage, WOWK-TV reported. Authorities said the girl had been inside by herself for about 30 minutes.
But the mother hadn’t abandoned the child on Tuesday.
Police said Suanne Barefield was actually in family court trying to gain custody of the girl, ABC 8 reported. The baby is now in the care of Child Protective Services.
Barefield, 27, of Belle, West Virginia was charged with felony child neglect creating risk of injury or death, police said. She could face up to three years in prison, the news station reported. She’s currently in jail on the charges.
David Hodges, the EMS Operations Director for the Charleston Fire Department, told WSAZ 3 the child could have been at risk for hypothermia had this happened two days earlier, when the region had subzero temperatures.
Last week, a Colorado woman was sentenced to eight years in prison for leaving her 2-year-old son alone in a freezing car during an overnight snowstorm, 9News reported. Nicole Carmon, 28, told detectives she drank six shots of vodka before leaving her son in the parking lot of a strip mall in the Denver suburb of Westminster, the news station reported.
Police found her son hours later suffering from hypothermia and frostbite, according to ABC 7.